By Genalyn Kabiling
Apart from the controversial water concessionaire contract, the Ayalas could be facing more trouble, this time concerning a huge land lease contract with the government.
An investigation into Ayala Land’s long-term lease for the commercial development of UP-Ayala TechnoHub project in Quezon City may be launched amid allegations the government was on the losing end of the deal, according to Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo.
Panelo said he read reports that the University of the Philippines, which has leased its Diliman property to the Ayala-owned firm, was only receiving a small fraction of the monthly profits.
“I have to probe it. I read in the internet that Technohub diyan sa UP run by the Ayalas parang maraming ginawang computation ‘yung nag-research parang lumalabas na ‘yung buong lugar na ‘yun is being rented by the Ayala at less than P20 per square meter for 25 years. Kung totoo, may malaki na namang problema (Computations on the Technohub run by the Ayalas were made by a researcher. It appeared that the entire place is being rented by the Ayalas for less than P20 per square meter for 25 years. if that’s true, there is another big problem),” Panelo said in a radio interview.
“Siguro papatingnan na rin natin. Basta lahat ng may anomalya titingnan ng gobyerno (Maybe we will order an investigation. Any contract with anomalies will be looked into by the government),” he added.
He assured the public that government is committed to review government contracts with private entities and remove any provisions that may be detrimental to the nation.
“Basta mayroon anomalya hindi lang mga Ayala, lahat ng may kontrata na may anomaliya sa provisions, titingnan natin (We will look into all governments with anomalies, not just the contracts with the Ayalas),” he said.
The massive UP property has been developed into an information technology hub approved Philippine Economic Zone Authority. The university’s revenue share in the property is used to supplement UP budget.
Back in 2016, the Commission on Audit (COA) discovered Ayala Land’s alleged unpaid rentals to the state university for the lease of its Diliman campus properties.
Last year, the Supreme Court stopped the Quezon City government’s plan to sell the UP lot to compensate for the P117.8 million unpaid taxes. The court ruled that UP is exempted from payment of real property taxes.
In recent months, President Rodrigo Duterte has lashed at the Ayala-owned Manila Water Company Inc. as well as Maynilad Water Services Inc. for the alleged onerous concessionaire contracts. He slammed the two water firms for milking billions from the people through the irregular deals.
New water deals are being finalized by the government to replace the existing ones. Duterte recently warned of a possible government takeover of the water operations if the two Metro Manila concessionaires would reject the draft agreement.